Located on the Vardar River at the foot of Mount Vodno, Macedonia’s capital city of Skopje is an interesting mix of civilisations, cultures and design ideas. At various times ruled by Ottomans, Romans, Byzantines and Bulgarians, evidence of each can still be seen around the city, jostling for space with newer structures resulting from the enthusiastic governmentled development programme of recent years. The area around the riverside is known to be particularly lively these days, both in terms of its architecture and adornments as well as its social offerings.
For a peek into Skopje’s past, check out the Kale Fortress – featuring evidence of a Neolithic settlement – and the ancient Turkish hillside area of Čaršija, still going strong alongside the 15th-century stone bridge. Its winding lanes and maze of narrow streets is where you’ll find many of the city’s most popular teahouses, cafés and nightspots, not to mention numerous mosques and other sites of cultural interest.
If you’re a nature lover it’s well worth taking the time to get out of the city and head for the hills, where you’ll find the Matka Lake in the middle of the breathtaking Matka Canyon. With plenty of caves to explore, hills to hike and water to kayak or sail across, the canyon area also boasts a number of monasteries, including the historic St Andrew’s, home to original frescoes painted by Jovan the Metropolitan in the 1300s.
Skopje is full of options for accommodation, from the seriously budget-conscious to the luxurious, but it’s reassuring to know even the higher-end choices are affordable. The riverside Park Hotel & Spa has rooms for around Dh480 per night, including breakfast.
NEED TO KNOW
Skopje is just under six hours from Dubai, and direct flights start from around Dh1,565.